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*OPINION* Does your small business need to be a brand?

Branding. It’s just for the big boys right? For the Apples, Googles, Amazons and Teslas of this world? Branding is for mega-corporations with deep pockets. With disposable cash to throw at something that isn’t the ‘right-here-right-now’ stuff that keeps SMEs and startups awake at night.

But you love those big brands right? You love the way some people idolise them like sports teams or religions even. The way they’ll buy anything they make almost regardless of what it is. You’d love some of that kind of devotion to your business wouldn’t you? Of course you would.

Whether you’re a startup or an SME with growing pains, ask yourself the following eight questions. If you answer most of them in the affirmative, then you’re a prime candidate for some branding help.

#1. Do you love what you do? If you are truly passionate about your business and what it does, translating that passion into how you promote it can be immensely powerful and form solid foundations for believable brand messaging. It also means that you are probably in it for the long haul. Which is handy because great brands aren’t built overnight.

#2. Does your business have a good reputation? Doing business the right way builds trust and loyalty and that reputation is contagious. Putting a brand wrapper around the great work your company does will only serve to amplify its good character and, in turn, performance.

#3. Do you have a story to tell? People do love a good business yarn. But it must be truthful, warts and all. If when you find yourself telling your business tales to people they are transfixed and hanging on your every word, then you probably have a decent biography in you. You also have one of the most critical components of a successful brand. A brand story.

#4. Do you have any business rivals? If you are lucky enough to have a completely unique business offer, then congratulations. You can just sit back and admire your P&L. But if like most companies there is a myriad of other companies in your space offering very similar products or services, then you’ll be keen to grasp any competitive edge. Honest and believable brand messages can often make the difference between sale or no sale.

#5. Does your promotional activity feel a bit all over the place? If you’re constantly knee-jerking from one sales drive to another, feeling everything you do is disjointed, then having a well thought-out brand strategy can help align your tactics. Branding brings consistency of message and consistency builds momentum.

#6. Do you have a loyal team but feel you can do more to unite them? Branding isn’t just for clients and customers, it’s for your staff and also for you as business owners. Branding brings clarity to your mission and vision which filters down into a set of unifying values keeping everyone focused and energised, every single day.

#7. Are you worried about looking ‘small-time’? I hear this a lot. “We’re starting to rub shoulders with some big, global brands and I don’t want us to look like we’re playing at it.” A lot of startups happen under duress. A door opens slightly and it needs to be smashed down. Grab the opportunity. Think of a company name, get a logo from Fiverr, do the Companies House stuff, get an accountant and we’re off. Then, a few years down the line, it all starts to look a bit lame when you’re mixing it with people from Eon or Autocad or Microsoft or whoever.

#8. Do you have an exit strategy? No-one can go on forever so you probably have. Whether it’s selling for a profit than can fuel your next project or if this business is your last stand and you want to finance a comfortable retirement. Branding is your shop window. As I’ve said, it sets you apart and puts you on the shopping lists of M&A executives.

“How many yesses then? All eight? Really? We need to talk.” Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the obligatory ‘last paragraph’ sales pitch.

Let’s be absolutely clear. Branding doesn’t guarantee business success, but it is a component of it. Consider these two undeniable and thoroughly researched facts that apply to all businesses regardless of their size:

a) Marketing and communications tactics informed by a clearly defined brand strategy perform better, and

b) Consumers respond more favourably to a business when its brand is identified, compared to when it is not.

Seize the advantage. Make 2020 the year your small business becomes a brand.